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Mayor Bloomberg Launches Nyc Service Initiative

April 20, 2009

Meets State of the City Pledge to Answer President Obama's Call for a New Era of Service

Program Will Make NYC the Easiest City in the Country to Volunteer, Channel Volunteers to Address Impacts of Current Economic Downturn

Makes Service a Part of K-12 Public School Education in New York City

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today launched a new initiative, NYC Service, to promote a new era of service and volunteerism in New York City at a kick-off event in Washington Heights. NYC Service meets the Mayor's State of the City pledge for New York City to lead the way in answering President Obama's nationwide call to service. The program is a product of an extensive 60-day assessment and consultation process led by First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris. The NYC Service program has three main goals: channel the power of volunteers to address the impacts of the current economic downturn, make New York City the easiest city in America in which to serve, and ensure every young person in New York City is taught about civic engagement and has an opportunity to serve. The Mayor was joined by Caroline Kennedy, whose uncle, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, was the chief sponsor of the Serve America Act, and U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, who was the main sponsor of the House version of the bill. The President will sign this historic legislation at a ceremony in Washington, DC tomorrow. Additionally, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, made a video appearance, Sway Calloway of MTV News served as the event co-host, and Carol Woods sang the closing number.

"Throughout my life, I've found that giving back is one of life's greatest rewards and that civic service may be the most important thing we ever do," said Mayor Bloomberg. "New York has always been fortunate to be home to everyday people who want to pitch in and help - and we need as much help now as ever before. NYC Service will channel New Yorkers' good intentions to tackle our greatest challenges, particularly those caused by the economic downturn. We are meeting the President's call to action and New York City will be the first city to strategically connect the power of its volunteers to solving its biggest problems."

"We are delighted today to present this plan, which we believe will launch a new era of service in our City," said Deputy Mayor Harris. "Throughout the planning and focus groups we found one thing for sure: New Yorkers love their City and want to help their communities and their neighbors. We have created a plan that connects this desire to serve with opportunities to make a difference. We are deeply grateful to all the local and national service leaders who lent their time and wisdom to contribute to this exciting effort."

"Mayor Bloomberg's blueprint to increase civic engagement in New York City positions New York as a pioneering 'city of service.' It can and should be used as a model for municipalities across the country to meet the unprecedented challenges our nation faces, and to tap into historically high rates of civic participation and patriotism," said Alan Khazei, founder and CEO, Be the Change, Inc. and co-convener of ServiceNation as a part of a statement, and who is also Co-Founder and former Chief Executive Officer of City Year, Inc.

NYC Service aims to set a new standard for how cities can tap the power of their citizens to tackle their most pressing challenges. In launching the plan, New York City has become the first major city to initiate a comprehensive local approach to supporting service and citizen engagement - building on the Bloomberg Administration's record of promoting volunteerism and public-private partnerships.

NYC Service Initiatives

NYC Service initiatives that connect volunteers with the City's greatest needs

A key goal for NYC Service is connecting those who want to serve with meaningful opportunities that address the City's most pressing local needs. Volunteers will be asked to participate in activities that strengthen neighborhoods and support neighbors in need - two critical challenges, especially given the national recession. Additional efforts will target emerging or existing needs in education, the environment, health and emergency preparedness. Examples of initiatives are:

  • Block WatchNYPD will reinvigorate the program, which trains volunteers to identify and report safety-related issues in their neighborhood.
  • Police Auxiliary Unit - NYPD will increase the number of civic-minded volunteers in this unit.
  • Block Beautification - Volunteer-led neighborhood groups will transform their local public spaces. Twelve groups from across the five boroughs have been selected to receive small grants and work together with relevant City agencies to transform their blocks and build ongoing stewardship in their communities.
  • Legal Services - Volunteer attorneys will dramatically increase free access to legal services, particularly around foreclosure prevention, consumer credit, and immigration.
  • Financial Empowerment - Skilled volunteers will increase the capacity of neighborhood financial empowerment centers to serve more New Yorkers in need.
  • Middle School Mentors - The Department of Education, in partnership with mentoring organizations, will host a major drive to increase the supply of mentors and connect them to students in our highest need middle schools.
  • Rooftop Cooling Program - NYC Service will work with partners to coordinate efforts for volunteers to paint roofs white, which can reduce energy consumption in a residential building by up to 10 percent.
  • RelightNY - Supporting the existing initiative, NYC Service will direct volunteers to distribute compact fluorescent light bulbs and educate tenants and homeowners on the benefits of energy efficient bulbs.
  • Walking School Bus - The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will recruit volunteers for a pilot program to create 'walking school buses' - promoting the benefits of exercise - by encouraging school children to walk to school with adult supervision where safe and feasible.
  • Shape Up - Encouraging trained volunteers from the health and fitness communities to expand free 'Shape Up' classes in parks, community centers, and other locations across the City.
  • Flu Fighters - Getting volunteers to assist in the critical task of encouraging more New Yorkers, particularly the elderly and individuals from under served communities, to get annual flu vaccinations, preventing unnecessary deaths.
  • Show and Tell - Encourage interest and establish new audiences by asking professionals in the cultural field to escort youth and families to arts and cultural organizations and events.
  • CPR Training - Significantly expanding CPR training programs by increasing the number of volunteer CPR trainers.

NYC Service initiatives that will make New York the easiest city in America in which to serve

In a survey, 17 percent of New Yorkers who do not volunteer said they do not know where to go to volunteer. A key goal for NYC Service is making it easier for these and other New Yorkers to serve their communities. Initiatives that support this goal include:

  • A state-of-the-art website - A new website, accessible via, will serve as a one-stop shop for volunteers to locate and access one-time or routine volunteer opportunities. The website will expand to encourage self-directed service opportunities, including through social networking and other technologies.
  • Volunteer 311 - New Yorkers who want to serve their communities will have access to enhanced information on special volunteer opportunities and referrals to organizations that need volunteers through 311.
  • "Go Pass" Volunteer Screening - To make service easier for volunteers and for nonprofit organizations that use volunteers, NYC Service will work with partners to develop the "Go Pass" program. The program will work to reduce the need for multiple nonprofits to pay for background clearances on the same individual, and it will reduce the time volunteers now spend going through detailed background checks at multiple organizations.
  • NYC Civic Corps - At least 200 individuals will comprise the soon-to-form and first-of-its kind NYC Civic Corps, which will help nonprofit organizations and public agencies use more volunteers more strategically. Today, many of these organizations are struggling to manage and support sustainable volunteer efforts. The program is being formed through a partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service and its AmeriCorps VISTA program. Individuals who want to serve in the inaugural class can visit for more information.

NYC Service initiatives that teach young people the value of service

A sustained culture of service can be created by developing programs that encourage young New Yorkers to think about volunteering as a core part of their lives. Initiatives include:

  • Service in Schools - Starting this fall, New York City will be the first large urban district to require all schools to have a service plan. In the fall, schools will submit individualized service plans as part of their schools' Consolidated Plans. Other school districts promote or require service among middle or high school students. In New York City, all 1.1 million students in 1,500 schools will have access to service and civic engagement programs. Through a partnership with Children for Children, up to 100 AmeriCorps fellows will be deployed to provide training, technical assistance, data collection, and support to New York City educators to introduce or increase service in their schools. Other partners will include City Year, Common Cents, The League, and Global Kids, Inc.
  • Summer of Service - 1,000 young New Yorkers participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program administered by the Department of Youth and Community Development  will be engaged in large-scale service projects that will have a measurable impact on the City's most pressing needs.

To view the remaining initiatives in NYC Service, please visit and view a copy of the full report.

The initiatives in NYC Service are the result of a 60-day assessment and consultation process that engaged hundreds of service experts, nonprofit organizations, schools, colleges, private-sector partners, and public agencies. The assessment included: focus groups with representatives from service and volunteer-using organizations and expert interviews with local and national leaders; data collection from nonprofit organizations that use volunteers, schools and colleges, and City agencies; and a representative survey of 1,500 New Yorkers on volunteer participation and motivation.

To oversee implementation of the near 40 initiatives included in NYC Service, Mayor Bloomberg will appoint the City's first Chief Service Officer. No other major city has such a position, although two states - California and New York - have cabinet level posts dedicated to promoting service. The Chief Service Officer will work to track the impact of NYC Service efforts and will make detailed and routine reports to the public on progress and challenges. These reports will be posted to

"Blank Campaign"

As part of the City's effort to encourage more New Yorkers to step up and volunteer, the Mayor today announced the "Give Your BLANK" campaign. Created by NYC & Company in collaboration with its agency of record, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the campaign will encourage all New Yorkers to volunteer their services by letting them know that everyone has something to offer - everyone can offer their "BLANK." This "BLANK" can be a special talent, passion, free time or just a willingness to pitch in and by doing so can make a difference in the City. The fully integrated campaign, which cast real New York City volunteers, will include TV, radio, print, outdoor and online as well as a new website, developed by Cloudred, available at

Pledges of Service

The following individuals made personal commitments or commitments from their organization to NYC Service programs at the event:

- Dennis McKeon, Where to Turn, Staten Island - committed to increasing efforts to combat graffiti on Staten Island by cleaning 1,000 locations.

- Arlene Chin, American Cancer Society, Queens - committed to educating 10 school students about cancer prevention who will pass the knowledge on to 100 community members which can save 1,000 lives.

- Rupa Mehta, a fitness instructor - committed to helping revive the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center in Harlem to entice more people to exercise.

- Dr. Reverend Melony Samuels, Food Bank volunteer and Backyard Garden creator, Brooklyn - committed to providing more backyard gardens to help keep New Yorkers healthy.

- Maria Torres, Founder, The Point, Bronx - committed to making her organization greener by building a green roof and installing solar panels.

- Jeanne B. Mullgrav, Commissioner, Department of Youth and Community Development - committed to connecting 1,000 young people from the City's Summer Youth Employment Program to meaningful service opportunities in all five boroughs this summer.

- Amreen Vora, current Barnard College student and a future Teach for America member, Manhattan - committed to continuing work tutoring high school juniors in East Harlem by recruiting three new SAT tutors.

- Edito and Rita Taytayon, Silver Lake Head Start, Staten Island - committed to recruiting three more foster grandparents to adopt classrooms.

- Dacia Reed, Peer Health Exchange - committed to training 2,000 college student volunteers to teach health education to over 20,000 high students over the next five years.

- Joe Benincasa, Actor's Fund, Manhattan - committed to promote volunteer opportunities to the Broadway, film, and TV community recruiting more than 1,000 volunteers.

- Mathilde Cuomo, National Mentoring Partnership - committed to supporting the middle school mentors program.

- Terry Bischoff, Red Cross, Manhattan - committed to growing Red Cross volunteers from 6,500 to 10,000.

- Anna Maria Gonzalez, 4th grader from PS 132 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - committed to working with friends to plant trees to help reduce the effects of global warming.

- Gary Bagley, Executive Director of New York Cares, Manhattan - committed to mobilizing 50,000 volunteers in New York City this year.

The Mayor's Office received significant support from a number of organizations, in particular the federal and state offices overseeing national service programs. The Mayor was joined today by Alan Solomont, Chair of the Board of the Corporation for National and Community Service Board; Susie Stern, Chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service Board; Donna Smith from the New York State Office of National and Community Service; and Mark Walter, Executive Director of the New York State Office of National and Community Service.

Without the generous donations from the following individuals or organizations, the full scope of NYC Service would not be possible: David Rockefeller, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and The Lizzie and Jonathan M. Tisch Foundation. The Mayor also thanks McKinsey & Company for its critical support.

NYC Service also benefits from services donated by the following organizations: NYC & Company, in collaboration with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, for the design of the overall promotional campaign; Cloudred for the development of the NYC Service website; Todd Selby Photography; and news outlets that donated ad space including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, El Diario, amNew York and Metro New York.

Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna

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